The wife of a Unit 5 volunteer who died in a school bus crash last month is suing the trucking company that was involved in the wreck.
Kathleen Crabtree claims in a lawsuit filed in McLean County circuit court Jan. 4 that tractor-trailer driver Ryan Hute failed to reduce speed to avoid an accident and failed to realize he was driving on the wrong side of the road on Interstate 74 near Downs in the Dec. 5 crash which killed 72-year-old Charles Crabtree.
Crabtree was a longtime volunteer with the Normal West freshman girls’ basketball team which was returning home from a game.
Hute, 34, of Delmar, Iowa, was also killed in the crash. Eight players were hospitalized for treatment of minor injuries, while coach Steve Price was seriously injured. He was recently released from the hospital. Bus driver Mark Kuhn was also seriously injured. He remains hospitalized.
The lawsuit alleges Hute failed to “use ordinary care to avoid a collision.”
“It’s hard to imagine how he got going the wrong way on an interstate like that,” plaintiff attorney Jim Ginzkey said. “We suspect that maybe he unfortunately entered (the interstate) on an exit ramp.”
The lawsuit seeks more than $50,000 in damages against Jason Farrell of Clinton, Iowa-based Jason Farrell Trucking.
Ginzkey said Kathleen Crabtree filed the lawsuit to assist each of the victim’s families in covering their expenses.
State law forbids seeking damages from the defendant’s estate, but the plaintiff can seek an insurance settlement from the defendant’s family. The court appointed Bloomington attorney McLean Arnold to serve as special representative for Hute’s estate.
Ginzkey said the lawsuit was necessary to get subpoena power to obtain that insurance information.
“All of these individuals who were on the bus and injured cannot sue the estate of Ryan Hute or try to get money or property from his surviving widow of children," Ginzkey said. "All they have available is insurance. We need to find out what that insurance is and that information is not being volunteered.”
Ginzkey added Kathleen Crabtree plans to establish a scholarship at Normal West and possible Normal Community if she is successful in obtaining a settlement, citing his volunteer involvement with both schools.
The has been assigned to McLean County Judge Rebecca Foley. A case management conference has been set for June 28.
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